How to Use Brake Spring Tools

Written by jody l. campbell
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Many would-be mechanics have performed drum brake repairs without the use of speciality tools, such as brake spring tools. A combination of needle-nose pliers, screwdrivers and channel locks can be used, but these more common tools require finesse and can lead to potential hand injuries. Brake springs tools are extremely affordable and available at almost any auto parts store. Not only do they make the job quicker and easier, they also are safer and more accurate.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Drum brake hold-down spring tool
  • Drum brake spring pliers

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    Brake Shoe Removal

  1. 1

    Remove the upper return springs from the inboard and outboard shoe first, using the brake spring pliers. The pliers feature a multipurpose return spring removal end on one of the handles and a reinstallation end of the other handle. A clawed grip on the other end of the handles can remove and install tension springs by safely expanding the springs and using the moulded pointed tip to insert the spring end into its seat.

  2. 2

    Place the socket end of the brake spring pliers onto the riveted anchor where both return springs attach to. To remove the outboard shoe return spring, turn the pliers counterclockwise until the notch on the end of the socket catches the hook of the return spring. The notch will force the end of the spring onto the handle and then off the anchor.

  3. 3

    Remove the inboard shoe employing the same procedure, but this time turn the pliers clockwise until the notch feeds the spring onto the end of the socket. Once both springs are unseated from the anchor, disconnect the other ends attached to the shoe plates by hand since the tension is relieved on them.

  4. 4

    Remove the hold-down springs near the centre of each shoe plate using the brake spring hold-down tool. This tool features a small inverted cone slotted on each side. By holding the hold-down pin from the backing plate with one hand, place the tool over the hold-down spring and cup and then turn the tool. Which way does not matter. The hold-down pin has a flattened end that needs to be aligned with the slot in the cup of the hold-down spring. Once aligned, relieve the tension on the tool and the cup and spring will pop off and release its tension. The hold-down pin can be removed manually from the backing plate.

  5. 5

    Remove the lower shoe retaining spring connecting the two shoes. This spring can easily be removed by hand if you manipulate the two disconnected shoes closer to one another at the bottom where the spring connects. This will relieve the tension on the spring and then you can disconnect it from each side of the shoe plates with your fingers.

    Brake Shoe Installation

  1. 1

    Attach the lower brake shoe retaining spring to the bottom of each shoe before placing the shoes up against the backing plate.

  2. 2

    Insert one hold-down pin through the backing plate and place a new hold-down spring and cup on top of the pin. Use the brake shoe hold-down spring tool in the reverse fashion you used to remove it. Hold the pin with one hand, place the tool onto the cup and spring and then turn the tool while applying pressure against the spring until the alignment of the flattened pin end and the slot in the cup is achieved. Be sure the end of the pin sits perfectly inside the groove of the cup for proper retention. Repeat for the second shoe.

  3. 3

    Attach one return spring to the inboard shoe plate and place the other end on to the opposite handle of the brake spring pliers. This end features a flat curved edge that will hug the rivet of the anchor. Lift the pliers handle upward to feed the spring down along the handle and onto the anchor. Repeat for the outboard shoe return spring.

Tips and warnings

  • Because brakes heat up during use and then cool down when idle, the springs and brake shoe hardware should always be replaced when replacing brake shoes. After time and wear and tear, the tension of the springs will become compromised and not effectively hold the shoes in place. Brake hardware and spring kits are very affordable and available at auto parts stores that sell brake shoes.

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